Monday, November 3, 2008

Stepfather, The (1987)

Directed by:
Joseph Ruben

Terry O'Quinn delivers an outstanding performance as Jerry Blake, a friendly, hard-working stepfather who seems like the ideal addition to a fatherless suburban family. He also happens to be a little out of his mind and has a deranged obsession for things to be perfect. When they're not, which they never are, he sets himself up with a new job in a new town with a new family, then murders the disappointing older ones, moves on and makes a new life (and identity) for himself. THE STEPFATHER starts with an excellent, very effective opening scene of O'Quinn showering, shaving and putting on a whole new appearance. Seems harmless enough, but as he walks down the stairs cheerfully humming Camptown Races, past a blood soaked murder scene, you know the guy is a real sick-o. After that, he meets single woman Susan (Shelley Hack, whose line delivery is frequently a little off the mark) and her pretty, but trouble making, teen daughter Stephanie (Jill Schoelen, in her horror film debut). Stephanie knows that something is wrong with Jerry from the beginning and after she sees one of his psychotic episodes down in the basement workshop (one of the most memorable and scary scenes), she does some freelance investigating. Also looking into things is Jim (Stephen Shellen), who is trailing Blake after his sister is murdered.

It's well-paced and tautly scripted by Donald E. Westlake. O'Quinn was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for his performance here and returned in the mediocre - but tolerable - first sequel: STEPFATHER 2: MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY (1989). There was also STEPFATHER 3: FATHER'S DAY (1991) featuring a different actor playing the same role, with some ridiculous plastic surgery explanation.


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